Restaurant Law Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Community Group Battles Bars, Opposes Liquor Licenses

Can a block association stop a restaurant or bar from getting a liquor license?

Would-be restaurant and bar owners in New York may find that gaining approval of the State Liquor Authority (SLA) is harder than usual for establishments on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A group known as the LES Dwellers has made it its mission to stop new nightspots from opening in "Hell Square," a nickname the group gave a nine-block area saturated with bars and restaurants.

The LES Dwellers object to the hordes of young people loitering outside of clubs, urinating, vomiting and sometimes literally falling down drunk. The crowds, they complain, make the streets impassable. The group posts videos of the chaos online and is quite savvy in its use of social media.

The group is comprised of about 25 neighborhood residents who attend community board meetings to oppose applications for liquor licenses. They complain to the SLA about its lax enforcement, and they meet with the local police precinct to ask for improvements in neighborhood safety.

In 2013, the group's opposition led to the denial of a liquor license for a planned bar and restaurant at 106 Rivington Street, a site that is still empty. The group also played a role in the closing of The Derby at Orchard and Stanton. Its frustrated owner says he will be selling his other nearby bars, which the LES Dwellers have targeted. The owner of Sweet Chick, which replaced Max Fish on Ludlow Street, failed to get approval of its liquor license after the group protested to the community board that there was a school nearby and too many other bars on the same block.

Other owners of New York bars and restaurants are afraid to speak on the record about the group, though they still battle against it. Some feel they are being punished unfairly and that the LES Dwellers go too far.  Whether that is, or isn't the case, working with your local block association is usually the best avenue to ensure a smooth road through the licensing process.   

The attorneys of the DiPasquale Law Group are dedicated to helping restaurant and bar owners handle the legal and practical challenges of launching and operating a new venture in New York City. We have extensive experience with liquor license applications, other required permits and all facets of the restaurant industry. For a free consultation, call us today at (646)383-4607.

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